by ROCCO MAGLIO
An important piece of context has been left out of the coverage of the Miami Memorial Weekend mass shootings. There were six people shot and one killed in a shooting on the border of the Wynwood and Overtown neighborhoods early Saturday morning. Early Sunday morning 20 people were injured and two were killed when gunmen opened fire outside of a private hip hop venue. On Monday two men were found shot in Midtown, which is just north of Wynwood. The shootings happened during Urban Beach Week, a Hip Hop Festival that has been held in Miami over the Memorial Day weekend since 2001. This festival is estimated to bring hundreds of thousands of hip hop enthusiasts to Miami.
The festival is not a single event, but a number of private venues that host up-and-coming and well-known hip-hop artists. The epicenter of the event is South Beach, but events are held all over Miami. Major artists including Flo Rida, Pitbull, and Lil Bow Wow have performed at events during the festival.
The festival also has been synonymous with violence. There have been numerous shootings and deaths. In 2011, police fired over a hundred bullets at the driver of a car who attempted to ram police, killing the driver and injuring four bystanders. This became a national story. In 2017, there was an emergency meeting in Miami Beach to discuss stopping Urban Beach Week after two men were killed in a dispute that started over a parking spot. The second man was killed by police when they attempted to apprehend him as a suspect in the first shooting. Also in 2017, a man opened fire on a taxi cab, there was blood at the scene, but police were unable to identify the victim.
According to a 2012 New York Times article entitled “As Hip-Hop Devotees Come in, Many Miami Beach Residents Prepare to Leave” many of the residents leave town over this weekend. When I lived in South Beach in the early 2000s, the residents that stayed were scared to venture out during Memorial Day weekend. I was leaving the apartment complex where I lived and I had a conversation with one of my neighbors and mentioned that I was going to Publix. She asked me to pick her up a couple of things at the store because she did not feel safe. In a couple of minutes several of my other neighbors had also requested that I pick them up items from Publix. At the time it shocked me that all these people were afraid to leave the apartment complex. My neighbors were not wrong to worry about their safety, during this weekend many of the shooting and mass fights during the year in South Beach happened.
Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy,” Ramirez said, “Every weekend it is the same thing. This is targeted.” He did not mention that this weekend is notorious for violence in the Miami Area. None of the reporting that I have seen mentioned that this was during Urban Beach Week.
This context is important for this story because otherwise, the impression is that Memorial Day Weekend is just another weekend in Miami. Not the weekend that a major hip-hop festival is held that has been synonymous with violence.